The Art of Suffering

My family knows I don't suffer gracefully. In fact, the day I broke my little toe has become a favorite teasing point. Bethany will still cry out, "my toe, my toe" with gales of giggles whenever I bump my foot against something and start to make a face.

Occasional broken toes aside, I think I had gotten to a point that I didn't believe in suffering. In fact, I once stood before a young woman at a conference and told her I wasn't afraid of anything because I knew God would walk beside me through anything. What I meant--though I didn't realize it at the time--was I believed God would insulate me from whatever terrible circumstances might come into my life. I've since learned that isn't always the case.

Pain is an incredibly powerful tool for burning out the dross in your life. It's amazing what you become comfortable with...little work-arounds here and there to patch things together and make them look nice. Pain has the power to separate metal from wood in short order. It can show you who your friends are, rearrange your priorities, and rob you of every arrogance you didn't even know you had.

Dr. Bill Gillham once told me that the problem with a lot of Christian counseling was that it centered on trying to build back all the things God was trying to tear down in a person's life...all the wood, hay and straw that Paul talks about being burned up in the fire.

I think the hardest part about suffering is in acknowledging that it is God-allowed. If the one who made the universe has the power to stop pain, it can be bewildering when He doesn't. Maybe we really are insulated until God needs to bring about major renovation in our life. The irony is that pain often touches us in the area we expect it the least and winds up exposing the things we wanted to hide the most.

Maybe the art of suffering is in letting pain do its work and allowing it to burn away the things it was meant to. In having the grace to walk through it when everything inside wants to anesthetize, flee or reach for another wooden board and a hammer.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall